Outback tourism leaders say the North Queensland economy is losing over $90 million each week while domestic travel is prohibited and are calling for an urgent review of recreational travel restrictions in time for the school holidays.
Outback Queensland Tourism Association has joined with the Regional Tourism Offices in the Cairns, Townsville, Whitsundays and Mackay regions, urging the state government to lift the restriction on recreational travel and widen the existing Outback travel bubble in time for Stage 2.
At the moment Stage 2 begins June 12 when holiday travel will be permitted but only in your region.
It restricts June travel to only 250 kilometres on the coast (eg Mount Isa residents are unable to travel to Cairns), despite there being zero COVID-19 cases under investigation in North Queensland, nor has there been any active cases in the region for a number of weeks.
Outback Queensland Tourism Association CEO, Denise Brown said last year was the Year of the Outback but 12 months on there were serious concerns around the caveats of border restrictions with limited tourists, and exorbitant hibernation costs without any cash flow to support Outback Tourism businesses.
"Border restrictions must be reviewed to enable tourism to re-ignite our regions which have already been so heavily impacted by 10 years of drought," Ms Brown said.
"Many of our colleagues have pivoted as a diversification tool from agriculture and we are now being thwarted on the tourism angle."
The five tourism bodies are encouraging the Queensland Government to consider the processes in place in Western Australia, Northern Territory, and South Australia where broader travel within their own State has relaxed due to low infection rates, mirroring the situation in North Queensland.
"The Queensland CHO stated from the outset that a region would need to see two incubation periods (28 days) without a locally acquired case for restrictions to be reviewed - Queensland's Outback has recorded zero cases of COVID-19. Further to this it has been over 8 weeks since any cases in North Queensland were under investigation," Ms Brown said.
"We understand that it will a step-by-step process, and the health and safety of everyone must always be a priority, but we have seen businesses and our community adhere to rules and implement strategies to keep their staff and the public safe."
The tourism economy in North Queensland is worth $6.4 billion annually and supports 37,400 direct jobs, making up 25% of Queensland's tourism economic contribution despite having only 15% of the population.
The Outback Queensland region typically attracts approximately 1.1 million visitors each year with 80% of travel coming from within Queensland, and a large majority of these visitors travelling from within the region's drive market of Townsville, Mackay and Cairns, making the school holiday period a critical time for the industry.
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